Book review: Kill Alex Cross

So, after all that hope and optimism, how do I feel about this being (on paper) the worst England team since 1958? Well, I’m waiting until the group stages are finished to say much about it. But there’s certainly plenty I want to say.

Kill Alex Cross – James Patterson

Despite the fact that I’m technically in the middle of another book right now, I got the urge to try some James Patterson again, so I got one out of the library. I’ve never read any Alex Cross books before, but I certainly didn’t feel terribly lost reading this, as if I’d missed something crucial by not reading any of the others. Then again, maybe that’s because I couldn’t get particularly invested in this book.

Alex Cross, a detective in Washington DC, gets involved in the kidnapping of the President’s two children; while at the same time, a series of terrorist attacks start occurring in the city…and that’s really as well as I’m inclined to summarise the plot. A complicated story, this ain’t. There are two good things about it. Firstly, as a thriller, it does its job and makes you want to find out what happens. Second, James Patterson integrates detail into his writing effectively, and the pictures created in the prose are certainly rich enough. But there are problems, and plenty of them.

While readable, the story isn’t really very exciting as thrillers go – plus it turns out that the kidnapping and the terrorist attacks have nothing to do with each other. Just a particularly bad week for DC, I suppose. It seems like too much of a coincidence to be believable. The presentation is also problematic, as the story switches back and forth between third-person and first-person (always Cross’s POV) but visually, the two aren’t presented any differently (e.g. the chapters are numbered, so there’s no different chapter names to demonstrate that Cross is taking over), which makes the shifts distracting when they come. Patterson also occasionally uses exclamation marks in the action instead of just dialogue, which I’d thought was a no-no.

Much like in Zoo, the characters are a weak point. Almost all of them are too boring and one-note to talk about, even the hero himself, Alex Cross. In the Start Writing Fiction course, it was mentioned that the key to a character is what sticks out about them; that’s what you focus on in, say, a physical description. Take the hero of one of my favourite thriller series, Jack Reacher. Reacher, as portrayed in Lee Child’s writing, sticks out: not just physically, but mentally. He has a particular way of seeing the world, a particular way of using his brain and deciding what to do in any given situation. When I read those books, I feel like I know Jack Reacher – and I can’t say the same for Alex Cross after reading this. Nothing about him sticks out; nothing seems to make him unique. He’s even more blank and neutral (as in, neither likeable nor dislikeable) than Jackson Oz from Zoo.

Regarding the terrorists, I would have liked more explanations as to why they’re doing what they do other than, well, they’re terrorists. Patterson attempts to make the main female terrorist, Hala, more rounded by showing that she genuinely loves her husband and children; but given that most of the time, we just see her as a cold, driven assassin who wants to kill as many Americans as possible because reasons, it doesn’t work. Also, there’s a bit near the end where Hala comments, “I’ve never seen the Atlantic before” and I thought to myself, “Um, didn’t you just take a long plane journey over it to get to the East Coast?” Well, maybe it was a night flight.

So overall, Kill Alex Cross is readable but utterly unmemorable, and I don’t think I’ll be reading any more Patterson for a while. Rating: 1.5/5.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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